There is much uncertainty and confusion as to the real differences between prescrip-tive and descriptive dictionaries. In general, the majority of existing accounts can be summarised as follows: Descriptive relates to the empirical basis; accordance between the empirical data and the dictionary is required. Prescriptive relates to the genuine purpose of the dictionary; the dictionary is meant to help with problems concerning text production and will thus affect usage. This asym-metrical understanding would imply prescriptive and descriptive in practice being false contrasts. In this article, a more consistent terminology is suggested which allows for both the function of the dictionary and the relation of the dictionary to the empirical basis.